Making My Little House Art

I’ve spent the last day or so watching, in spurts, Neil Gaiman’s commencement address at the University of the Arts. It’s twenty minutes long, but it was well worth making the time. The speech, which includes a transcript, is being widely shared, and I can see why.

If you want to go watch it, right now, go. Please. I’ll wait.

As a writer, and a freelancer at that, Gaiman’s wry references to the freelancing trenches caught my eye (and ear). But the rest of it—about art and goals and the convergence of the two—was brilliant, too. I reached the end of the speech with two thoughts:

  1. I must share this with my children.
  2. I am doing the right thing with Little House Travel.

Two things Gaiman said struck at my heart.

If you have an idea of what you want to make, what you were put here to do, then just go and do that.

There are certain places, both physical and emotional, where I feel comfortable. The older I get, the clearer this is to me. And some of these places are more “me” than others. It’s not about right or wrong or this or that, it’s about home. To me, when I am at the Little House sites, I feel at home. Not every moment, and not to the point where I want to stay; I happy I live somewhere else. But the rest of the joy is in the return. I love moving within Laura’s world. I loved it the first time I did it over a decade ago, and I’ll love it the next time I do, this summer. Unlike other trips I’ve taken that I simply checked off the list, the Little House sites, as I expressed to Wendy McClure in her book The Wilder Life, are places I always want to return to.

They are also places I want to share. People who love the Little House books want to see where Laura lived, and I want to help these people and their families experience, in as painless a way as possible, the same heartstopping moments I do. Showing people how to travel in Laura’s world and what to see when they go is my way of giving back what Laura has given me.

Make your art. Do the stuff that only you can do.

Laurafans that I know do amazing things, and they do them well. They educate young students on her impact and importance. They dig around in courthouse basements for old documents. They provide more information than you’d ever think possible on her life. They dress in nineteenth-century clothing and help us understand the world she lived in. They talk about the weather in her books. They physically guide groups of people on trips to her homesites.

And me? I write. I parent three children. I love to research, but not necessarily facts or history. My interest is people. So when I write, it’s not enough to me to write about Laura. By connecting her books to real life—today’s real life—I write about her fans and what they value, and what they enjoy, and what about Laura’s world makes them forget to breathe for a moment. No one’s skills and experiences converge in quite this way, because no one else is quite like me. No one can do this the way I can.

Comment of the Week

This comment came over the international transom last night:

My husband has been reading the series to our five-year-old daughter. Today and again tonight our little one asked about certain places in the books. She asked if Silver Lake still exists among others. She is fascinated with the fact that these are real people and places and dates. I overheard her and Papa talking about maybe taking a trip to see some of these places that have become dear to us as well. On a whim I searched Bing for “Little House Travel” and found your site – It’s lovely and I’m so glad to have found it! We’ve always planned on travelling the States first and we’ll be mapping this out for sure! ~Daizy

This is why I’m doing this. Thank you, Daizy!

“Little Trip on the Prairie”

In 2008, FamilyFun magazine was looking for a writer for a Little House travel story. A colleague of mine suggested me to her editor, and after I submitted a proposal (de rigueur in the magazine world), I was assigned the story.

My story about traveling to the upper-Midwestern Little House sites, "Little Trip on the Prairie," appeared in the June 2010 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

The following summer, my husband, my kids and I were scheduled to visit Pepin, Walnut Grove, and De Smet — in that order. Which we did do, sort of. Except my daughter got really sick just before the trip, which meant she and her Dad didn’t meet up with me and her brother until the two of us were already in De Smet. She got to hit Walnut Grove on the way back, but she missed Pepin completely. Plus we had to buy her and her Dad a whole new plane ticket, which the magazine would not reimburse.

From a parenting and a financial perspective, it was a pretty dodgy situation. From a professional one, it was definitely a little tricky—but we got it done.

I will say that I highly recommend visiting the Little House sites when you don’t have a photographer following you around.

The story was ultimately printed at the beginning of the summer of 2010. (My kids quite enjoyed their tiny taste of fame.)

Welcome to Little House Travel

You’ve read the books. Perhaps your mother read them first. Maybe now your kids are, too. You’ve followed Laura Ingalls via the pages of the “Little House” series of books as she traveled from Wisconsin to Kansas and Minnesota and, finally, Dakota Territory.

Then, when you were done reading, you wanted to go there. You wanted to go where Laura went, see what Laura saw.

I did, too. I’ve spent the last decade of my life chasing Laura.

My ebook series, Little House Travel, is written for people like you and me, and our parents, and our children. It’s a family travel series. From the Ingalls family’s De Smet to the Wilders’ Malone, I will provide the most straightforward and honest been-there-done-that guidance for families who want to follow in Laura’s footsteps.

Starting today, May 1, 2012, I will be building this website and the accompanying blog to lead up to the release of the first ebook in the series: De Smet, South Dakota.

Won’t you come along for the wagon ride?

Thanks to Michelle Rafter’s fifth annual WordCount Blogathon, I will spend the month of May ramping up this website for my new ebook series, Little House Travel, with 31 days of blog posts.